'Rage is an underlying theme across the entire album'
Narzra Ahmed
11:55 23rd March 2021

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With their new mini album Vampire out on Friday, Gigwise spoke to Kitty and Jon from Saint Agnes about how their anger fuelled their songwriting, and about Nick Cave praising their work...

Saint Agnes draw influences from everything around them. “It’s almost like every piece of music and every film and every conversation plays a part in what you ultimately create,” says Jon James Tufnell. “I think that there are some artists that we particularly admire for their fierce creative independence like Nick Cave, PJ Harvey, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, Ho99o9,” he continues.

During lockdown, Saint Agnes kept creative by releasing covers of some of these heroes, covering everyone from Lana Del Rey to Lorde, as part of their Quarantine Diaries. They took pop classics such as ‘Green Light’ and gave them a new lease of life. Kitty Arabella Austen says: “we would cover songs and record our version of and make a video for it. Then we'd give ourselves a day to do it. It was mainly to keep us sane. We really weren’t in the mood for writing our own music at that point, because everything was so intense and scary. We started doing The Quarantine Diaries and doing that kind of led us to starting writing on the mini album”.

Recording the mini album, ‘Vampire’ was unique - not only because the band members hadn’t seen each other in months, but also because the whole process felt more intense than usual. Kitty speaks about how her strong feelings were at the forefront of her creativity. “I think rage is an underlying theme across the entire album. I think part of the reason we wanted to make something during this time is because we're feeling really pissed off. Pissed off at the government massively in the way that the arts have been treated during this pandemic,” she explains.

“We wanted to make something that was a big ‘fuck you’ to them really. Our entire industry - our friends who are roadies, who are tour managers, sound engineers, all the people that make up the live music industry - were basically told ‘you're not viable’. I was thinking about it…’why does this EP sound so angry?’ And I think that's probably why.” 

Jon agrees. “General frustration and rage was...we needed an outlet for it. And that's what we created with the music and then, at the same time, because of lockdown, our window to the world, everyone's windows to the world right now is virtual.” He explains that the lack of real human interaction made them feel “disconnected from reality”. He describes how Saint Agnes used the concept of social media for their sound. He says, “We wanted to make music that had elements, whether that was masking something underneath that was really ugly and inspired by rage or something that was more negative”.

Another reason for the raw intensity of the mini album is that Saint Agnes poured all their energy into it. Without live shows, they expended their energy into ‘Vampire’. Previous single and title track ‘Vampire’, is about “the ugly side of social media where we like the things that do well and the things that are the shiniest.” Kitty adds, “The song is about how social media makes  a monster of you, like makes a vampire - that's where the idea came from.”

“I don't think anyone goes on Instagram and then comes off it feeling good about themselves, I just don't think that that happens...so ‘Vampire’ is about that duality. We wanted to make what is more of a pop song and present the shiny, beautiful thing. But then the lyrics and the theme of the song are about the ugliness underneath it. So like the beautiful vampire but really, it's a 300 year-old of the undead”. 

Jon adds, “we've taken our song - that would be our normal punk rock song - and we put it through some audio Instagram filters, so that it feels more subversive. It feels more subversive to play the game and highlight the horror of it from inside”. 

The mini album also has ‘psalms’ on it, which help the main tracks transition into the next. Jon describes the process of adding the ‘psalms’. “We know that when people sit down and listen to a record, or they put on a CD, it's a different listening experience. And you kind of want to immerse yourself more like you would when you're watching a film. And so we wanted to have a little bit more meat on those bones.” Some of these transitions include samples from their favourite podcasts.

We're sure you're convinced already, but if not then know this: Saint Agnes now have a fan in Nick Cave. After recording a cover of Grinderman tune ‘No Pussy Blues’ last May, Cave himself heard it and swiftly christened it as “chilling and superior”. Kitty and Jon, as you might imagine, described this moment in their career as “amazing” and “surreal”. 

Vampire arrives 26 March.

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Photo: Scott Chalmers